Content marketing has the potential to be immensely successful. At the same time, it can also bring some significant difficulties. Writer’s block is chief among them.
Successful content strategy efforts live or die based on their ability to deliver consistent, timely, high-quality long-form and short-form pieces on your website, social media, and other channels. But, especially after some initial successes, many businesses simply run out of content ideas.
The good news: this is a normal hurdle in the content marketing process. Overcoming it means finding reliable sources for new ideas that appeal to your target audience’s interests and needs while helping to drive your content and overall marketing success.
Appealing to your audience’s pain points and interests is an especially important piece. Content marketing is built on providing value, but the value lies in the eyes of the beholder. For existing and prospective customers, value tends to mean giving them something (related to your industry, of course) that’s specifically designed to help them improve, get better, or learn something relevant.
That might sound like it complicates things at first because it narrows your content choices. Ultimately, though, it can actually focus your efforts. It allows you to use the following sources to find content ideas that specifically match your audience’s interests and needs. These ten steps can help to unearth those sources.
1. Talk to Your Customer Service and/or Sales Team
If the goal is to match your content ideas to your audience’s needs, talking to your customer-facing team is a great first step. Perhaps more than any other unit in the organization, your customer service team hears your audience’s questions, the issues they encounter, and more.
Depending on the scope of your customer service operation, there may be a formal FAQ document that allows insights into the most frequent issues customers encounter. If that’s not the case, consider interviewing your customer service agents directly for their input.
In B2B industries or businesses with longer sales cycles, talking to your sales team can have a similarly positive effect. You will gain a slightly different perspective from prospective vs. current customers. However, the questions your sales agents receive can be just as valuable to gather ideas for new, original content.
2. Run a Search in AnswerThePublic.com
At its core, AnswerThePublic is a simple tool. Type in a keyword related to your industry or product category and you will then receive visualized results with your audience’s most frequent questions about those keywords online. You can then use those questions to guide new content, specifically designed to answer them.
The tool’s visualization of question types is especially relevant for this purpose. Frequently asked how questions lend themselves to in-depth guides, while why or who questions might be better for shorter explainers. Meanwhile, the “comparisons” graphics can help better understand your audience’s mindset while searching for these keywords.
3. Create a Google Alert for Industry Topics
Sometimes, the best ways to find content ideas include simply understanding what other content has already been published. Google Alerts can help you do just that.
Through the search engine’s intuitive tool, you can set up in-the-moment, daily, or weekly pings on any type of content being published about a given keyword or phrase. Set them up for any relevant terms to understand how others in the industry are talking about a given product category or other topics.
The goal of a Google Alert, of course, is not to replicate the topic you find. Instead, it’s to find inspiration. It provides you with a jumping-off point that you can use to develop your own related ideas for your marketing strategy.
4. Aggregate and Curate Relevant Industry Content
Sometimes, the biggest roadblock to publishing regular unique content is the simple fact that the market is already crowded. Your competitors and other third parties may be looking to post about the same topics you were planning to.
If that is the case, consider building an aggregation strategy. What might be missing is not a slew of new and original content but a regular update that curates all the new content already being published by others.
Content curation takes time and still requires original thought. Rather than simply peppering your audience with links, select the most relevant new topics and add your own thoughts or analysis to them. Then, publish your round-up in email, on your website, and elsewhere on a regular basis.
5. Analyze and Follow Up on Your Most Successful Posts
Especially for organizations with a long history of successful pieces of content, previous publications can be gold mines for new content ideas. They provide vital indicators of what the target audience has responded to and engaged with. Thus, it can point the way to new variations.
Take this guide as an example. If it performs well, it might lead to audience engagement and follow-up questions. Those questions, in turn, can become their own guides. Even without explicit questions, a guide that dives deeper into the process of developing new ideas into high-performing content may be a natural follow-up.
This step requires a system set up specifically to track how successful your content was with your target audience. Using both website-internal metrics like Google Analytics and channel-specific tools like Facebook Insights, track your content’s reach, clicks, engagement, and lead or customer conversions if a direct link exists.
6. Update Your Old Content
Analyzing previous content can also unearth posts and publications that used to be successful but are too outdated to still use. In that case, a simple step might be simply updating those posts to be more relevant for your audience’s present needs and current industry trends.
Updating old content involves ensuring current stats, references, and sources are up to date and accurate. It requires a close reading to ensure it reflects your current audience personas. Additionally, it requires everything you’ve learned about them since the post was initially published.
Once finished, adding a simple note of the post’s original publication date and the fact that it has been updated with the current date can push it to the top of both news feeds and Google’s attention.
7. Use HubSpot’s Blog Post Idea Generator
This simple tool has its shortcomings. However, it can be a good idea starter, especially if the other tactics outlined above do not gather content ideas. It’s simple: add up to five different nouns that are relevant to your industry or product. This way, you get five free ideas for specific topics and post articles.
These ideas are based on frequent web searches and industry algorithms and are unique to the specific nouns entered. HubSpot does advertise a “year’s worth of blog ideas” for anyone willing to sign up to its contact database. In our experience, the free tool tends to be enough to gain inspiration.
8. Interview Industry Experts
A great but time-intensive way to build new content is to look for the people your audience most wants to hear from, such as credible professionals in your industry that they would consider experts. The power of social proof can make this type of content a sure-fire winner when promoted the right way.
This step is time-intensive and often requires at least some industry connections. But at the same time, the output can be well worth that effort. An in-depth expert interview can become a webinar, multiple blog posts, and a slew of social media promotions. You might even be able to get that expert to promote the new content as well, adding exposure to your marketing efforts.
9. Leverage Your Clients or Customers
A similar approach to interviewing an external expert includes pulling in another group relevant to your audience: your current clients or customers. Depending on your industry, this may lead into very different directions:
- B2C industries with short sales cycles and large customer bases can benefit from short snippets and product reviews highlighted as part of the content marketing efforts.
- B2B industries with longer sales cycles and smaller but more long-term customers can dive deep into individual situations through case studies presented in webinars, whitepapers, and more.
Either way, current customers present great content opportunities. Look for those especially happy with your product or service, and examine their stories for potential content ideas.
10. Ask Your Social Media Followers
The final step involves an even more direct approach with your current audience. Ask them what content they might find interesting.
This step can work as both a direct and indirect approach. The direct approach simply asks social media followers about the topics they want to know or read more about. The indirect method asks more general questions aimed at your audience’s pain points.
For example, a SaaS solution focused on business finance solutions may ask about the biggest challenges businesses face with their bookkeeping. The answers can lead to a guide or post directly addressing the most commonly named challenges and how to manage them.
Using Multiple Sources to Build a Steady Stream of Content Ideas
Of course, none of the above works in isolation. Only relying on your social media followers for your content marketing strategy would be a mistake. Instead, it’s the combination of these steps that can help build a steady stream of content ideas. Using many resources can then turn into a content calendar full of added value for your audience.
Combing through these sources, finding ideas, and turning those ideas into content can take significant time and effort. Fortunately, you’re not on your own. Contact us to learn more about our comprehensive digital marketing services. Find out how we help businesses like yours optimize their content marketing strategy for sustainable success.